Privacy experts say the release of a video of Ottawa Senators players sounding off while in an Uber was a “flagrant invasion of privacy” that shows more needs to be done to ensure individuals have control over personal information.
“I was just outraged,” said Ontario’s former privacy commissioner Ann Cavoukian in an interview on Tuesday, the day after the Ottawa Citizen published a story detailing the contents of the secretly-recorded video.
“Clearly the individuals didn’t know they were being recorded, or that it would be disclosed to the entire world on the Internet… It’s such a flagrant abuse of privacy and it’s completely unethical.”
The video, which has since been taken down, showed seven Ottawa Senators players venting about one of their assistant coaches while in an Uber in Phoenix, Az. in late October, according to the Citizen.
An Uber spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Yahoo Finance Canada that the company reached out to the driver and worked to help get this video removed “as soon as we were aware of it.”
“This is a clear violation of our community guidelines,” the spokesperson said. “As soon as we learned of this situation, we immediately worked to help get this video removed.”
It is not clear if the driver is still with the company. Uber did not respond to requests for further comment.
The players in the video, meanwhile, said in a statement through the Senators that the conversation was recorded without their knowledge or consent, and that it was “an important learning experience.”
But what kind of recourse the players can – or will – take from here remains unclear. Had the incident occurred in Canada, Cavoukian said the players would have been able to file a complaint with the federal privacy commissioner that likely would have spurred an investigation. In Canada, organizations like Uber are not allowed to collect and disclose personal information without individuals’ consent.
Although privacy legislation varies across the United States, she still believes the players could have a solid case for court action.
Kris Klein, managing director of the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) Canada, said the incident was an “obvious breach” and that there is a clear expectation of privacy when using ride-sharing apps like Uber.
“Clearly it’s not as private as your home, but just because you are outside of your home doesn’t mean you give up all of your privacy rights,” he said.
“In fact, in Canada, it’s illegal for an organization to collect and disclose your personal information without consent. Clearly that happened here.”
Sharon Polsky, president of the Privacy and Access Council of Canada, said there needs to be more education when it comes to the various privacy implications in our increasingly technological society. She also says the “patchwork” of legislation regulating personal information needs to improve.
“Privacy laws are not adequate for what goes on these days, and there has to be public awareness for people to know that this is possible and to demand elected officials change laws,” Polsky said.
In the meantime, she has what she calls some “old fashioned” advice:
“If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say it,” she said. “That old wisdom still applies in the digital age.”